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Keep the Grinch from snatching Christmas packages with these tips

FARGO - 'Tis the season of giving and, for those sending or receiving packages, the season to be wary and take precautions against theft.

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Window clerk Mark Krause checks in packages for shipment Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, at the U.S. Post Office in downtown Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO – 'Tis the season of giving and, for those sending or receiving packages, the season to be wary and take precautions against theft.

The frequency of package theft has risen with the sharp increase in online shopping in recent years - a growth trend that spikes during the busy holiday shopping season when enticing sales and free-shipping offers proliferate.

"People are ordering more online," said Lt. Tory Jacobson of the Moorhead Police Department. "The volume goes up, the potential for theft goes up."

The holidays make an especially ripe time for package thieves. Many parcels are gifts, often items of value such as consumer electronics, which make them attractive targets, said Lt. Joel Vettel of the Fargo Police Department.

"We do certainly see an increase in these types of reports over the holidays," he said. "The sheer number of packages, plus the type of items" help to explain the seasonal uptick in thefts.

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Package carriers and police say consumers can reduce package theft - often a crime of opportunity - by planning ahead and taking a few simple steps.

The key is to avoid or minimize the time a delivered package is left unattended. To do that, people should do the following:

• Don't leave your mail or parcels unattended, especially overnight. Check your porch or stoop when you get home.

• Consider shipping to an alternate address where a package won't be left unattended - ship to your work address or a friend or relative's.

• Leave a note in your mailbox asking the package to be delivered in a safe or less conspicuous place, such as inside a garage door or by the back door.

• Take advantage of online tracking services provided by the U.S. Postal Service, UPS or package shippers. If possible, retrieve the package soon after delivery.

• Postal customers can sometimes require a signature for delivery, or can arrange to pick up a package at the post office.

• When away from home for extended periods, put a hold on mail deliveries.

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Organized package theft is rare in Fargo-Moorhead, according to Vettel and Jacobson.

"Typically, it's that crime of convenience," when a thief happens to spot an unattended package when nobody is around, Vettel said.

UPS offers a free service called UPS My Choice, which sends an email alert letting the customer know when a package will be delivered. UPS My Choice customers also can go online to arrange for packages requiring a signature to instead arrange to have the package left with a neighbor or by the back porch.

"We've never in Fargo had a big epidemic issue with package theft," said Greg Johnson, postmaster with the Postal Service in Fargo. But, he added, the vulnerability to thieves is growing with the volume of packages, which surge more than 20 percent during December.

Some merchants, including Amazon, require delivery even when no one is home, forcing carriers to leave packages unattended, Johnson said.

If customers leave notes asking a package to be left, carriers will accommodate the request when deemed safe. "We will use that option at our discretion," he said.

Related Topics: MOORHEADCRIME
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